Flora Wallace

Age 86: The social worker and ex-music critic for The Sun created a scholarship for students at Peabody.

July 04, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun Reporter

Flora Wallace, a retired social worker and former Sun music critic who established a scholarship at the Peabody Conservatory, died of pneumonia Sunday at the Roland Park Place retirement community. The former Homeland resident was 86.

Born Flora Murray in Baltimore, she was the daughter of the president of the old Emerson Drug Co., manufacturers of Bromo-Seltzer. She was also the great-niece of Capt. Isaac E. Emerson, who invented the headache remedy and built the 300-foot-tall tower at Eutaw and Lombard streets.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Ruxton and Roland Park, she was a 1939 Roland Park County School graduate. After study at Vassar College, she transferred to Goucher College and earned a history degree. In the 1970s, she received a master's degree in liberal arts from the Johns Hopkins University.

As a child, she began to play the piano. Her family had two grand pianos, and her mother played one part of a score while the daughter played the other.

Mrs. Wallace studied with Peabody professor Pasquale Tallarico and continued to use music scores with his hand-written notes until several years ago.

"Her two favorites to play were Mozart and Rachmaninoff," said her son, Mark Wallace of Anson, Maine.

Mrs. Wallace turned down a job as a teacher because she wanted to write for a newspaper. Her family said she persisted in trying to get a position at The Sun. She joined the Sunday Sun staff in 1943 and wrote feature stories.

"She often had more than one story in the Sunday paper and used a pseudonym. She chose her two brothers' names, Edward and Gordon," her son said.

Because of her musical knowledge, she became The Sun's music critic in 1945 and covered concerts and operas.

When Weldon Wallace, who had been the paper's critic before his World War II military service, returned to his old job, she met him at the paper's newsroom, then at Charles and Baltimore streets.

"They originally tried to split the music criticism schedule, and they would meet every week. They got to know to each other. Within six weeks, they started dating. They married in 1947," her son said.

For their honeymoon, they attended the Bach Festival in Bethlehem, Pa. They continued to attend the annual event for 37 years.

She left the paper in the late 1940s to raise a family. In 1962, she, her husband and children went to The Sun's Rome bureau, where, among other assignments, he covered the Second Vatican Council. She ran the day-to-day operations of the paper's Rome office. She learned to speak Italian fluently at the Scuola Dante Alighiere.

"She wrote about four or five stories a year when a second important story broke when my father was busy in another location," her son said.

She returned to Baltimore in 1966, and two years later joined the city's Department of Social Services as a caseworker and was later a supervisor in the agency's fraud unit. She retired in late 1984.

She then joined the Union Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and donated 7,000 hours. She was president of the auxiliary for three years.

She maintained her interest in music and practiced piano daily. She had season tickets to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

After her husband's death in 1996, she established a scholarship foundation at the Peabody. Earlier this year, a scholarship winner, Esther Shin, played for Mrs. Wallace and her friends at Roland Park Place.

A memorial service is planned for October.

In addition to her son, survivors include another son, Dr. Robert Wallace of Chicago; a daughter, Cynthia Wallace McKee of Chevy Chase; and three grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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